For reasons unknown, my five-year-old has started requesting that we not listen to stories and music on the way to school, but instead to the local news station. He especially likes to know what the weather’s going to be and if there are any accidents on the roads. I don’t mind listening to those because I want to know, too! But when the real news comes on, I start to squirm and switch back to Curious George. I start to wonder (again) just what type of world I have brought my three beautiful boys into, and how they are going to navigate their way through it. Sigh. How sad.
Politics Are Family Related
But wait! The question isn’t the lamenting “What have I brought my children into?” but the empowering “What am I going to do about it?” Because in the end, the outcome of political elections and public policies directly affects the subject of my greatest passion: my family.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at this. I recently went to congress.org and searched for family-related bills and resolutions under current legislation. Below are the keywords and the number of bills and resolutions related to each.
- Education 2596
- Family 1408
- Foster Care 106
- Mental Health 388
- Mothers 130
- Religion 260
- Special Education 86
Those are a lot of issues that could affect my family! So how do we become involved in shaping the world our children are living in? And how are we supposed to choose leaders among women and men who are whining, complaining, and name-calling on a national stage?!
Q & A with Enid Greene Mickelson
Searching for answers, I went to my wonderful neighbor Enid Greene Mickelson, who served as a congresswoman in the 104th Congress in 1995. She was the third woman from Utah to serve in Congress, and the first Republican woman from Utah to do so. Lucky for me (and you!), Enid agreed to sit down with me for a discussion about the importance of mothers in the political process and policy making. Below are questions and answers from our conversation:
Q:“How did you become involved in the political process?
A: “This is going to sound funny, but you talk about the power of mothers—it was my grandmother. I knew she paid attention to it. That was something that stuck with me, that my grandmother loved this country, and she would talk about the importance of going to vote.
“I remember, too, going with my mother when I was just a little girl, going into those big old clunky voting machines. That left an impression on me as a child, that I would go to vote with my mom.”
Q: Why do we need more women, specifically mothers, to be involved in the political and policy making process?”
A: “Women have a different perspective; that is one of the reasons we need more women involved in the public sector, not fewer. Because we as moms are used to having to try to conciliate. We are generally a little bit more emotionally aware in some respects than the men are. We have a different skill set. Those skill sets are very much needed. It can’t be all about who pounds the lectern the hardest or shouts the loudest. And we have that power. If we would just exercise it.
“Fifty-three percent of voters are women. Think, if we would just show up more, what kind of impact we could have! We can impact the tone of the room.
“The more women in the room, the less likely you are to have the fist pounding and raised voices. We generally don’t do it that way. We make our influence felt in a different way. It is so needed.”
Q: What suggestions do you have about where to start and how to become involved in the political process and policy making?
A: “Show up! So much of this seems harder and more complicated than it is. Don’t be put off with that. If you stick a toe in the water, usually you find out, ‘This isn’t nearly as hard as I thought. I have an opportunity here to make a bit of a difference.’ You don’t have to be an expert overnight.
“I do believe there are seasons in our lives. We want to have it all. But we can’t have it all at the same time. You have to choose how much time you have at each stage of your life, and your child’s life. Maybe the time for you to run for office is not now, or ever. But you can always do a little something. You can write a letter to the editor. You can take your kids for a walk to pass out fliers for a candidate you support. Just keep at it.”
“Q: This year is an election year. How can we narrow down all of the information out there, so that we can be informed when we head to the polls on November 8th?
A: “There is no one book that you’re going to pick up that’s going to be ‘the one.’ It’s like anything else: you’ve got to spend a little time yourself figuring out what works for you. And that’s frustrating for people, because we all feel like we don’t have time for anything. But you don’t have to be a policy expert overnight.
“One of the problems we have right now is it is too easy for people to find the voices that simply reinforce what they already believe. It can’t be so simple all the time. You need to challenge yourself occasionally. You need to say, ‘Okay, this other person isn’t someone I would usually agree with, but have I thought this through?’
“What I tell people is when you’re trying to find the facts, never get all of your information from one source. I take bits and pieces from different places, and after awhile, anyone will feel comfortable in saying, ‘This is a source I can get good information from.’”
Project Show Up!
Getting involved in the political process can seem daunting, but look at this simple list of actions. Figure out where you are, then take a step to get involved today!
- Register to vote.
- Determine where your polling place is and when the next election is.
- Research where candidates stand on issues important to you and your family. Look at multiple sources (yes, even the ones you may not agree with!).
- Choose one or two issues you are particularly interested in or passionate about.
- Sign up for email updates from your city council, state legislature, and Congress on those issues.
- Respectfully share your thoughts, opinions, and solutions with policymakers working on policies related to issues you have an interest in.
- Visit Project Show Up on Facebook to learn more about what you can do.
We don’t have to accept the world we are raising our children in as it is. We can make a change, and all we have to do is show up!
QUESTION: What have you done to be involved in the political process?
CHALLENGE: Choose one item from the list above and commit to doing it this week.
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer and Becky Fawcett.
Image from Cate Johnson; graphics by Anna Jenkins.